From Seed to Soil
May 16, 2008
I’m getting ready to plant out most of my seedlings this weekend. These little guys are as prepared as they’re going to get.
On March 30th I started planting my tomato seeds indoors, setting them on a heating mat to help them germinate:
As soon as they germinated they were taken off the mat and put under grow lights:
I would turn these lights on in the evening before going to bed and turn them off in the morning before leaving for work. Once I forgot to turn on the grow lights and the pumpkin seedlings that I started way too early stretched an impressive 1.5” during the night. Occasionally they would endure the breeze from an oscillating fan to help their stems grow stronger, initially for an hour or two then for 8 hours every other day.
After a week they were exposed to indirect sun during the day while still staying indoors:
One day I left a flat of tomatoes too long in the direct sun indoors and burnt their little true leaves which really stunted their growth. I still feel bad about it, Rouge d’Irak, Roma, Juliet, Mortgage Lifter and Mirabelle Blanche!
I started hardening them off to the outdoors about mid-April by letting them hang out on the deck for an hour or so in the morning or afternoon when the sun wasn’t so strong.
Then they would spend half-days outside under a shade cloth to protect them from the sun and wind:
After a few days they were still protected from direct sun though they got the thrill of nature’s breeze through their leaves:
Throughout all this they were being moved in and out through my patio door. I had to lay down an old sheet for them to sit on indoors when the bottoms of the trays were wet from watering:
After a week they got to spend time out on the deck in direct sun and wind. Some of them even got to be test seedlings and would spend the night outdoors when the night temperature was expected to be + 4° C. Finally they all got potted up into 4” plastic pots at the beginning of May and spent more and more time outdoors without shade or wind protection:
The results were good from the test seedlings that had been forced outside during the chilly nights and all of my tomato seedlings (and other veggie seedlings) were allowed to stay outside full time in the direct sun and cool nights. Here are the majority of my tomato seedlings all lined up by variety:
From left to right is:
Sausage – Opalka (9), Aunt Ruby’s German Green (8), Black from Tula (8), Bonny Best (5), Green Zebra (8), Old Flame (4), Canabec Rose (8), Sweetie (9), Eva Purple Ball (6), Cherokee Purple (18!), Earliest + Best (7), Mosco (9), Blondkopfchen (8), Pruden’s Prurple (9), Black Pear  and Black Plum (9).
I’ve given away some of the Bonny Best, Canabec Rose, Sweetie and Cherokee Purple, Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Eva Purple Ball and Black Plum to my mom and friends. The rest I plan to sell at the Kemptville Farmer’s Market or at the end of my driveway.
I’ve also taken my wintersown experiments out of their storage containers and put them on the deck which has quickly become awash with seedlings:
To prepare for this weekend’s planting out I got help to move the concrete reinforcement trellis about 1.5’ out from the garden edge, giving me more room to trellis tomatoes:
This 8’ x 16’ space is really too small for all the seedlings I’ve started and I’m glad to have the extra garden space at my in-law’s.
Last night the temperature went down to + 3°C with a risk of frost in some areas. I decided that I would make an effort to cover my seedlings in case anything happened. I don’t know what I’d do, having worked so hard to have so many seedlings, if they were killed off by a chance of frost a day before planting out.
They made it through the night and will be going into the garden this weekend. Yahoo!